After a month of MOOC -ing I thought it was a good time to share some initial thoughts about the experience.
These are crude, simple, initial reactions that are not intended to be some deep insight into the content or platform. That said, Initial impressions matter. So here goes:
1) There are four rough categories of people taking the classes – aspiring MBAs who don’t want to pay for a degree or care about the diploma (I consider myself in this category); retirees or similar who enjoy a good dose of continued learning (e.g. Fun with World Music) but without the costly university fee; high schoolers who want an edge on college (this is comically made evident by posts about how FaceBook is overrated because of over-sharing of pictures of various HS activities), especially with interests in computer science and data science; and international students (many from developing nations) reaching out for “better” higher education in the absence of other options.
2) The universities and professors are overtly advertising themselves - How many mentions of your book and offerings at university can you cram into 20 minutes? How many times can you make it feel like this course is just the “tip of the glacier”? What this really tells me is that the profs and universities are after branding and marketing. They followed the textbook in “avoiding disruption” by jumping in with the newbies, but did it without the quality (more on this later). While the advertising gimmick is true to some degree in regular university classes (many profs require you buy their book – this class it’s “optional”), there’s a lot more of that happening here.
3) The technology sucks – Let’s call a spade a spade. Coursera’s main website is sleek and easily navigable, but the course pages themselves are little more than wikipedia articles on low-dose carotene regimens. 4 clicks just to get to the first week’s assignments. I’d love to see several improvements:
- Course twitter feeds/dedicated hash tags so folks can share articles or convos they see back to the class platform to enrich the discussion and content
- Mini-groups and communities within the course (and across Coursera) to promote building of stronger relationships between participants
- Stronger blog engines with active filters and keyword alerts just to clue you in if your incredibly insightful post about how Facebook isn’t innovative anymore because it’s just pictures of babies might have been posted already before you press “submit”
- Recommendation engines (like what you see in most social business platforms like Jive, SocialText, Connections) to help you find students that share your interests, fields of study, what you write (e.g. keywords), who’s “trending”, or other things Coursera can dream up. They’ve obviously got a lot of data
- Profiles that leverage open APIs so we don’t have to create another profile
- Better interaction/engagement with the lectures – not sure what that means, but figure it out
- Rate students. We’re not all equal; we’re not all above average. Want to hold people accountable, use some basic principles of gamification to show who’s contributing really valuable content, doing well in the class, maybe even has some level of “credibility” in the real world (pull from their LinkedIn profile). It’s not elitist, it helps make people accountable for what they say and encourage people to contribute quality content, not just noise.
- Some sort of “live” help or discussion one-on-one or in small groups with real students in the class, TAs, or other ways of enriching the discussion
4) Quantity over Quality - There’s a lot of potential, but they should be further than they are. Coursera has grown enormously quickly. But right now, the focus has been quantity and not quality. They need to fix that or face rapid drop off and disruption.
Read what some of my other MOOC-ers are saying.
I’m fortunate to have two awesome former colleagues join me in the MOOC journey. After the first week’s assignments, here’s what MacKenzie had to say about it (re-posted with permission):
I’m a few years late to the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) concept, but I finally registered for a course at Coursera and finished my first lesson. The course I’m taking with 50,000 other people is on Leading Strategic Innovation within Organizations, which I found super fascinating and relevant given my work leading two large innovation funds at my job. Walking away from the experience I had several reflections:
- MOOCs seem like an awesome way for adult learners to learn about practically any topic they want to.
- MOOCs have the potential to revolutionize how companies provide their employees with professional development — you no longer have to have a massive team to develop trainings or pay lots of money to bring in an expert, you just have to create the space and culture that allows people to take advantage of these free courses from top notch colleges (admittedly, this reflection is stolen from a friend, and the whole reason I decided to take the leap and check out this course in the first place).
- MOOCs, as currently constructed, are just like regular college courses — it’s all about the quality of the professor.
- Right now they also seem stuck to the long lecture format and interactivity is limited to quizzes and discussion boards — I’m excited to see the new ways they come up with to interact in the future.
- As more of these courses become available, and it becomes apparent who the best professor is for a given topic, students at brick and mortar universities might ask why they shouldn’t just take a MOOC if the professor quality is far superior to what’s available at their own university. Will MOOCs become the norm for lectures and you just have discussion sections at your home campus?
- In my course, there are a lot of ties to the professor’s book, which I’m sure can’t hurt book sales. Is leading a MOOC the new book tour?
- While there’s a lot to be skeptical about in viewing technology as the solution to all of our educational challenges and computer based learning isn’t for everyone, the concept of making this high quality content that used to cost tens of thousands of dollars to access via a college degree now free to anyone with access to the internet is amazingly awesome. I’m sure there is a huge pull for the creators to monetize this technology and courses, but for the sake of democratizing information I hope that never happens. Some wealthy individual, company or government should just fund this stuff and make it free to all (just like attending a physical PK-12 school).
- I’ve found the opportunity to so easily engage with high quality ideas outside the walls of my organization tremendously helpful in pushing my own thinking and am excited about what’s possible if lots of folks start participating in these. By attending trainings with folks from other organizations in different sectors, MOOCs have the potential to become idea conduits that lead to lots of cross-sector sparks of innovation.
- I’m not sure if they’ve organized the courses into “degrees” or not yet, but for folks who want the knowledge of something like an MBA, but don’t actually care about the piece of paper and definitely don’t want to pay for it, how cool would it be to get a requirement list, work your way through it and get a de-facto degree. I’m guessing they probably already have this, I just haven’t seen it.
- They’ve got to come up with a better name than MOOC or start using cows in their logo, otherwise the name/acronym just isn’t working for me.
Overall — extremely excited about my course and optimistic for the future of this technology and the impact it will make. More later on my reflections about the content of the course: managing innovation within organizations.
What does it mean to be data driven? Hopefully your first thought wasn’t a dashboard with pretty lines – a way to check your PTG. Being data-driven in some ways is harder than ever, not because of the the type of data or analysis needed, but because of the need to simplify the tidal waves of it coming from all spaces around us. While Business Intelligence is nothing new, we have more real inputs into our business models than before, and thanks to more accessible CRMs and so forth, more ways to pull up and look at that data for the lay worker. This is ultimately a good thing, but not so good until you really know how to use data, and that starts not by getting your degree in statistics or advanced math, but by getting in the right mindset about how you should be using data in your role.
First, a story.
Last month, the Harvard Business Review blog set off a series around innovation and many of them struck a real chord. Take a look below: